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Showing posts from November, 2016


I read the story I have read a thousand times, of Moses and Aaron doing magic tricks before Pharoah, and then the anguish of the Egyptian mothers and the hurried meal and the impasse before the vast waters. Perhaps because I am reading it all in one piece, I notice for the first time, the rhythm of the repeated motifs and the beat of the language and the rising cadences of powerful emotion. This is a masterful piece of storytelling. **** I wrote the paragraph so long ago I hardly remember it, but I am struck by how clearly it speaks to me now. This insight has, I now realise, been sitting with me, unrecognized, for a very long time. **** I flick through the tens of thousands of pictures on my hard drive, looking for one in particular. I don't find it, but I stumble across others which I have taken and then never looked at again. They are so long forgotten it is like looking at someone else's work. And, like someone else's work, it refreshes and feeds me.  **** 


I took this shot in St. John's Roslyn years ago. The chalice was  placed on the floor and positioned to catch the reflection of the window Yesteday Noah engaged his mother in a conversation about belly buttons. The whole business of placentas was explained with the sort of honest and brilliant simplicity Bridget is capable of, but one thing led to another and he asked "If Amma is your mummy, then who is Amma's mummy?" So he was, for the first time in his life, given the name, Valerie Underhill, which meant so much to me. Which led to the question beyond the power of simplicity to mask: "Where is she?" Which led to tears. Deep, wracking, sobbing tears.  He knows about death; he knows that dinosaurs are dead and that it's just their bones in the museum, but yesterday a pretty major penny dropped for him, about the universality and inevitability and permanence of death. Bridget talked about heaven and afterlife, which helped somewhat and he has asked s

House and Garden

In 2006 we were looking for a house to buy. We'd seen a collection of smallish villas within our price range, but all of them suffered from one of Dunedin's real estate traps: shade, wind or the ravages of old age. On a whim Clemency dragged me off to see this place, substantially out of our budget. It had a large garden, laid out to the sun with a school on one side and a reserve on another. Macrocarpa and blue gums towered 80ft into the sky to the South, sheltering the wind but not taking away any sun. It had a view to the harbour. Inside the house was tired, but it was light and airy and warm and even though it was small it felt spacious. It had two bathrooms and wooden ceilings soaring, in places to 20 ft above the floor. Every room was on a different level. It felt right. We bought it. it's been a stretch but we will retire without a mortgage. After renting it out for a few years we moved in 6 years ago. I built a study on one side which is my happy place.

Commited and Liberal

Sometime soon Clemency and I will have to choose a church to belong to, and at the moment we're not sure which one that will be. I'm not going to try and speak for her in a discussion we haven't reached the end of yet, but for myself, I guess one of the deciding factor s is that I'm a liberal, or at least, that's the label that is least inappropriate for me. On all of the litmus test social issues I can be found on the liberal end of the spectrum, and have been there even when I was a card carrying charismatic/evangelical. On theological issues, things are not so clear cut; although I'm certainly no fundamentalist, I usually feel more at home in theologically conservative churches than in theologically liberal ones . Some of that is about music. True, many modern choruses are musically and lyrically terrible, but modern liberal hymns can be just as bad, or worse, even. For example, I keep my mouth shut instead of singing: "Peace was your plea, and pe

Reading the Bible

Happy are those      who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread,      or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord ,      and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees      planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season,      and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3) In my time in the Christian Church, ie 43 years, I've heard some pretty stupid things come out of the mouths of preachers. Back in the day, for example, I was once taught that all music in a minor key was evil. And there was a pastor who taught, albeit briefly, that peacocks and owls were "of the devil", whatever that might mean. I've heard various specific dates for the end of the world promulgated, and listened as people have debated, earnestly, the precise order of events in the last few years of the late, great, planet earth.  Lately, of course, th


This photo has nothing whatsoever to do with what follows. I just like it.  St. Kilda Beach Many years ago I lived in a flat in Westminster St., Christchurch. Just around the corner from us was a small Brethren chapel, attended by a couple of friends of mine, and I visited it occasionally. It was a fairly standard, generic Protestant type of church except for one thing: the people who attended  were wealthier than average, and those who weren't comfortably off when they started attending, generally became so after a while. The people in the church were quite clear about why this phenomenon occurred, and several of them were quick to point out to me that it was NOT because they were particularly favoured by God. Rather, they recognised that once a person gave their life to Christ and started to try and live after the style of Jesus, and once people became part of this community, they acquired a set of spiritual and/or cultural values which were, actually, commercially advanta

Porkies, Brian, Porkies!

Leviticus is not an easy read. It's all about purity, and how to achieve it and it's full of advice on things like how to avoid mildew, and whether baldness is bad for you, and who you may or may not have sex with, and  how to tell if someone has leprosy and which earlobe to rub the lambs blood on if they do. Most Christians, and let's be honest here, have never actually read it, including, if his sermons are any evidence, "bishop" Brian Tamaki. In the public arena at the moment is a video of one of Mr. Tamaki''s talks: (or at least there was. It seems to have disappeared from Youtube) Here he says that, according to Leviticus, the weight of human sinfulness causes the land to convulse, and, lets forget all that bollocks about tectonic plates,  this is the real reason for our recent seismic events. Now you can read Leviticus if you want, or you can take my word for it, it makes no difference either way - you won't find the verse Mr. Tamaki is r

South Island

  Lake Dunstan Today the ground shook again. Mountains fell and rivers were stopped. I watched the pictures of the wrecked roads, all of which I have recently driven. I saw the fearful people and heard the perpetual question.  This is where I live, the South Island. I was born here. Most of my family live here and those that don't wish they did. When the word "home" is uttered, it is images of mountains and lakes and beech forest and tussockland  that come, unbidden, to mind. These are the places which formed me and which hold me.  And today we are reminded that it is all so beautiful because it is all so dangerous. Below our feet a couple of vast slabs of rock are floating on top of a seething sea of slowly boiling magma. They are grinding against each other as the currents move slowly but inexorably below them. Where they meet, they course together, jostling and pushing each other skyward in a jagged seam which forms the mountains and the lakes, and fr

Hope Springs Eternal

Leonard Cohen died today. I've mentioned my admiration of him before ( more than once, actually) but, today I feel strangely unmoved. We all die. I think he would understand why I feel this way. I'm listening, as I write this,  to a new album  by Future of Forestry . I like it. A lot.  Deeply Christian lyrics and superb musicianship. It's an unfortunately rare combination in contemporary music. I charged my flat camera battery and found ten unknown, unremembered pictures. The view is from my deck, goodness knows when, though the EXIF data would tell me if I cared to look. Anyway, a  gift from outside of my memory. I watched the video of Trump and President Obama quietly loathing each other before the assembled press. One of them a President and the other who campaigned, not to be president, but to be autocrat. One of the most worrying things for me in all this last few months has been the vitriol heaped on the good man and the willing adulation of the corrupted

Verse for the Day

Hagley Park, Christchurch, 2012.  (Nikon D300; Nikkor  AF-S DX 18-55 @ 55mm; 1/200"; f7.1; iso 200)

What Have You Done To Us America?

If the phrase "Leader of the Free World" means anything at all, which, actually, it does,  Donald Trump is my president too even if I didn't get to vote for him. So I woke this morning, sick to my stomach. In a nation of 318.9 million people; in a country which has produced Lincoln and Susan B Anthony, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, Bob Dylan and Billie Holliday, Martin Luther King and the Obama family, this ignorant, unread, shallow, dangerous buffoon is all they can come up with? Really? The only one of my several degree certificates which actually hangs on a wall is from an American seminary. I love the United States, well, bits of it at least, almost as much as I love my own country. But right now, though I now greatly fear it,  I cannot respect it. This nightmare is a sobering reality check. Last night my brother Guhyavajra wrote on his Facebook page, "The myth of politics is that it can ultimately sort out the human predicament and it can't. Trum


Personally, I blame Donald Trump. With the evening news filled with American election stories we ended, in disgust, the one last vestige of our regular television watching: the 6 O'Clock news, which used to run while we sat companionably on the couch, and sipped wine, and ate dinner. We began to watch videos instead. The Lord of the Rings, extended version, all of it, bit by bit. Then George Eliot: Daniel Deronda, and Middlemarch. And I was smitten once more by the work which the Guardian names as the greatest British novel of all time.  This adaptation of  Middlemarch is a six part mini series, shot in 1994, and it does, superbly, all those things the BBC is so good at: casting, costumes, scripting, editing, lighting, acting and directing. We saw the last couple of hours last night, after driving home from Winton, and I was a bit disappointed that it was over, so I found my copy, the Penguin paperback which I bought, new, for my class on the Victorian novel back in 1972. I


We have not spoken in months. He posts a comment and I see that we're still at it, keeping pace; keeping, almost exactly, the same step in what we are thinking and even what we are reading. We both laugh aloud at the unexpected pleasure of seeing each other.  She tells me she's reading Dylan Thomas; I am reading Malcolm Guite but the poems which have pulled us both up short cover the same ground. Another one added to our long list of synchronicities. I read his news from the other side of the world. The wisdom he gives to others answers my own question for the day. I notice that the issues in his Buddhist community are the same ones wracking my Christian one. There is no need to ask, for I know what she will want, but I do anyway, just for the reassuring sound of her voice. She makes a joke which renders me helpless with laughter but which I doubt any other person would notice. We plan, with unspoken agreement, the day ahead. There is a trajectory to my life; a patte

What I've been reading lately - 3 November 2016

I used to have a little carousel widget which displayed the books I was reading, but Amazon don't offer that anymore. So instead, I'm going to post, occasionally, a list of what I'm reading at the moment. Starting today. I'll give a brief outline but not a full review of each book. The graphic will sometimes contain a link to the book's Amazon page. So, first up: Malcolm Guite's collection of sonnets is slow reading because each is so rich and deep. an example; O Sapientia I cannot think unless I have been thought, Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken. I cannot teach except as I am taught, Or break the bread except as I am broken. O Mind behind the mind through which I seek, O Light within the light by which I see, O Word beneath the words with which I speak, O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me, O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me, O Memory of time, reminding me, My Ground of Being, always grounding me, My Maker’s Bounding L